Health organization stresses role of dentists in curbing opioid epidemic
BLOOMFIELD, Conn., U.S.: At the 2019 International Association for Dental Research General Session and Exhibition held on June 19–22 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the worldwide health services organization Cigna made special note of the important role dentists can play in addressing the opioid epidemic. As part of a long-standing commitment to help curb opioid addiction and overdose, Cigna partnered with dentists to increase awareness of the dangers of opioids and released three years of data on customers with dental and pharmacy benefits to help bring the topic into focus.
“Analyzing integrated pharmacy and dental data is an important step in helping us understand patterns of opioid prescriptions among dental providers,” said Dr. David Hamlin, regional dental director at Cigna. “Through the power of data, collaboration, and education, we can identify opportunities to improve treatment, intervene early, and support dental providers and customers in new ways.”
According to Cigna, the recently released data showed a 19% reduction in opioid prescriptions based on morphine milligram equivalent doses and a 9% reduction for opioid days supplied across dental specialists in the Cigna network. The company believes that the findings demonstrate that Cigna’s dental providers are embracing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to help reduce opioid misuse, including preferably prescribing NSAIDs for acute pain or prescribing opioids for only three days or less to manage acute pain from dental procedures.
“We work closely with providers and give them the information, resources and tools they need to help their patients manage pain in the safest way possible,” said Dr. Doug Nemecek, Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna. “One opportunity is informing treatment plans through data-driven insights. This is true for both medical and dental pain management, and as a result we are reducing reliance on opioids—a win for patients, families, and communities.”
The company now wants to continue to evaluate what drives opioid prescriptions for specific populations and build tools to monitor safety across a network of over 146,000 dental providers. They are also exploring research and partnerships with technology companies in order to evaluate the role of digital pain management.